Darkenwald Keeshonden

Darkenwald Keeshonden

Where health and quality are more important than quantity


The Paper Trail

Suzette Lefebvre, Darkenwald Keeshonden

first published in JabberwocKEES, Vol 3 #5, Sept. 1995

The "Spitz" dog, whether known as the Wolfspitz, LouLou, Grosspitz, or Keeshond, has been around since pre-historic times, and in all colors.

In 1906, in Germany, our modern breed's country of origin, the breed was officially classified, regardless of color, by the name Keeshonden.

The solid black and solid white dogs were used in breeding to sharpen the color of the coat. From very early on, dogs with tawny undercoats were bred to a black or a white, resulting in vastly improved color of the puppies' undercoats.
After World War II, classifications were made dividing the German Spitz into 5 categories based on size and color. The present FCI sanctioned varieties are:

a.      The Wolfspitz (Keeshond) - measures 17.7 to 21.7 inches, up to 23.6 inches permissible, acceptable colors are wolf-grey (wolf-sable).

b.     The Grosspitz (Great German Spitz) - measures 16.5 to 19.7 inches, acceptable colors are white, black or brown (dark chocolate).

c.      The Mittelspitz (German Middle Spitz) - measures 11.8 to 15 inches, acceptable colors are black, brown, white red-orange or red, wolf-grey (wolf-sable); other colors such as cream, cream sable, orange sable, red sable, parti-color, and black and tan are also permissible.

d.      The Kleinspitz (German Small Spitz, or Larger Pomeranian) - measures 9.1 to 11.4 inches, acceptable colors are the same as for the Mittelspitz.

The Zwergspitz (German Toy Spitz, or Small Pomeranian) - measures 7.1 to 8.7 inches, acceptable colors are the same as for the Mittelspitz.

The so-called American Eskimo Dogs, recently accepted by AKC, in essence are white Grosspitz, Mittelspitz or Kleinspitz depending on size and therefore variety.

In Alice Gatacre's book, The Keeshond, written in 1937, she stated that "nearly every winning Keeshond in England can trace his lineage to "Christel am Ziel", a Dutch import, although herself grey had many black descendants. Red, being the recessive color to black may account for the appearance of a chocolate or orange dog from time to time."

While she may not have set out to purposely breed for color, Mrs. Gatacre did experiment with color trials to find out what colors would produce what results. Her grey son/mother breeding of "Ado" to "Ada" was her first experience with color, producing a litter of seven, of which three were white.

The orange and cream dog mentioned in Mrs. Gatacre's book and again in Britta Schweikl-Ecklmayr's recent article in JabberwocKEES (Vol 3, #5, July 1995), "Stropp vom Laurhaas" (born in 1932) was himself one of a litter of one black and two orange and cream dogs. The sire and dam were both grey in color. Stropp was related to the aforementioned "Christel am Ziel" through the famous "Alex von Olching" and he was used for breeding by Mrs. Gatacre to produce the ancestors of many "Guelder" dogs.

Many of these Guelder dogs were imported from England to the United States and contain a large number of varied colors in their backgrounds. They were the foundations of many of today's Keeshond lines.

The orange and cream puppies born in the U.S. in 1991 referred to in Ellen McDaris' article "Keeshonden - The Rainbow Breed?" in the Winter, 1993 Keeshond Review and Britta Schweikl-Ecklmayr's article "Colored Keeshonds?" in the July 1995 JabberwocKEES were produced by our own kennel. The breeding was intentional; the colors resulting were not! It began as a typical aunt/nephew line - breeding. The bitch was major pointed and the dog was a promising two-year old just beginning a show career. What a surprise it was to see not one, but three orange and cream male puppies next to a normal colored bitch puppy that October night! Now that the males have matured they are like "dreamsicles": light cream undercoats, pale orange tips to the guard hairs, with cinnamon accompaniments - muzzles, ears, etc. Eye rims, noses, lips and footpads are a complimentary pink-brown. Their eyes are appropriately amber in color and their toenails are white.

There was much speculation as to why the colors happened. We felt, as Britta does, that this is not a new phenomenon. We decided to research the pedigree back about 40 years, which amounts to 10 - 12 generations. It was not until we delved into the additional five to seven generations that several dogs' names began to appear with greater frequency. We know that CH. Racassius of Rhinevale had produced blacks. Littermates, although grey, may also carry the gene for black, and therefore the recessive red gene. Racassius, and his litter sisters (and foundations for the English Ledwell kennel), CH. Ledwell Charlotte and Ledwell Catastrophe are found a combined total of 17 times in 9 generations, and are grandchildren of two of the foremost champions and stud dogs of the 1950's and 1960's CH. Big Bang of Evenlode and CH. Rahida of Rhinevale, through Rondorf of Rhinevale and Rumbelina of Rhinevale.

Another prominent Big Bang of Evenlode granddaughter found seven times in nine generations was CH. Keli-Kees Erin O'Mist, who was sired by CH. Sinterklaas Brave Nimrod.

Furthermore, CH. Dalbaro Beachcomber is found five times in seven generations. Big Bang is his great-grandfather through CH. Dutch Uncle of Ven. Beachcomber's son, CH. Damarkee the Party Crasher is related to Big Bang additionally on his dam's side through CH. Vangabang of Vorden. Finally, CH. Wil-Los Jamie Boy, a Big Bang cousin, rounds out the pedigree, appearing four times.

While there is quite a bit of Wistonia farther back in the pedigree we didn't consider it particularly meaningful in the color issue, though one dog, Commandant of Duroya, a grandson of CH. Wrocky of Wistonia, is present eleven times in generations eight and nine and may play a role. While we can trace his sire's line, information on his dam's line has been rather sketchy.

We did find that nearly every dog prominent in ten generations of the orange puppies' pedigree can be traced back to one of three dogs:

1.       CH. Big Bang of Evenlode, found 83 times if taken to the eleventh generation, mainly through Rhythym of Rhinevale (29 times!), Rhondorf of Rhinevale (14), CH. Sinterklaas Brave Nimrod (11), CH. Volkrad of Vorden (9), and CH. Dutch Uncle of Ven (9).

2.     CH. Rahida of Rhinevale, found 29 times, mostly through Rumbelina of Rhinevale (15) and CH. Robinella of Rhinevale (8).

3.     Vader Kerstmis of Vorden, found 23 times mostly through Robertina of Rhinevale (16) and Sinterklaas Lass of Venkeena (6).

As it happens all three of these dogs were sired by litter brothers - Big Bang by CH. Young Tom of Evenlode, Rahida and Vader by CH. Young Geron of Evenlode - leading us, of course, to their sire, CH. Rayvalen Geron of Grovelyn, a CH. Major of Broadcliffe son, and an outstanding English and Irish champion of the 1950's.

Certainly, there are many bloodlines carrying the colored gene and we wouldn't presume to declare an exact origin concerning our unusual litter. Many parts of the puzzle may never come to light unless involved breeders come forth to study and compare pedigrees and to learn from our experience and those of other breeders willing to share similar information.

As true Keeshond fanciers, we need to see colors as legitimate throwbacks to an earlier era of the breed when colors were appreciated on their own merits, according to what was considered correct for that color. Nearly every breeder, nearly every Keeshond, has the potential to produce colors and the occurrence should be recognized for what it is, a glimpse into the past - the foundation of what there is today - no more, no less. While it is not important to include the unusual colors under "acceptable coat colors" in our breed standard, neither is it necessary, nor desirable, to disqualify the dogs of other colors. We have never personally seen a colored Kees shown in a conformation class and do not view them as serious contenders for AKC championships. The current breed standard effectively addresses the issue of colors in the conformation show ring.

 However, since "colors" are considered a serious fault in the breed standard, thereby making them pet quality, and we ascribe to the KCA Code of Ethics which stipulates that pet quality Kees should not be used for breeding purposes, all three "golden boys" have been neutered. Two have been placed in a pet and obedience home where they may participate in obedience showing. The third boy, Darkenwald Orange Crush, stayed home with us. These boys don't know they are the "wrong" color and have the greatest temperaments and attitudes we have seen in any Kees. All are a little more laid back than their grey counterparts and have been admirable PR representatives for the breed,

How many colored Kees puppies have been born and, due to the lack of knowledge of the history of the breed on the part of their breeder, been culled or given away because the breeder thought the bitch had been bred by a Chow Chow or otherwise produced a mixed breed litter? Have even knowledgeable breeders acted similarly because they did not wish it known that THEIR bloodline could produce colored puppies? It is inconceivable that our experience was as unique and unheard-of an event as some would have us believe. Certainly there have been "unusual" Keeshond pups that never made it onto the rolls of AKC.

Considering the accuracy, or inaccuracy, of records and the omnipotence of the American Kennel Club registrations is an illuminating exercise. In our case, the puppies were registered with AKC as a litter and as individuals. Since the three males were not any of the listed color combinations, AKC required that several pictures of each boy, clearly showing his color, and a narrative description of the color be appended to the application. We described them as "orange and cream" in the application forwarded to AKC. After several weeks and further correspondence, we received the individual registrations. The American Kennel Club officially registered each "orange and cream" puppy as "white"! Because of such incorrect, or incomplete, accounts of documentation there is no accurate way to determine how many colored Keeshonden, and of which colors, have been born in the United States. We continue to be interested in this issue and would enjoy seeing any pedigrees of colored American-bred Keeshonden that may be available.

Copyright Suzette Lefebvre, Darkenwald Keeshonden; first published in JabberwocKEES, Vol 3 #5, Sept. 1995 All rights reserved.